Friday, 31 January 2014

Customizable CRM: Vital for Your Small Business

Your business is like no other.  Even within your industry, you have a different way of doing things, from taking out the trash to interacting with customers.  You’ve worked hard to develop systems and processes that help you succeed.

So why would you want a cookie-cutter customer relationship management platform?

Make Customization Work for You
We realize that your CRM needs are unlike any of our other customers’.  Sure, some features might overlap, but you need a system that focuses on what’s important to your company.  If you’re a 5-person firm, you won’t need the same functionality that a 100-person company does.  That’s why we offer customization options you can tweak to empower your small business.

Take your sales process.  In our software, you can create a group of tasks or events to automate repetitive business processes with the activity sets feature. You can also use pipelines that represent stages you define for projects and opportunities. Then you can see the big picture: how far you’ve come in your process and how far you have to go.

Because you don’t have your nose stuck into “right now,” you can strategize for the future.

Customizing Helps More Than Just Your Sales Department
You also probably have your own unique system for what fields you need filled out in your CRM, as well as tags to help you find what you’re looking for.  Insightly makes your job easier by letting you create custom fields, tags, and relationships so your client and lead data is designed to meet your needs, instead of just a generic template.

Say, for example, you run a marketing firm and want to organize your projects and opportunities based on project type. You can create a custom 'project type' field so you could view your projects by:

●    Blogging
●    Social media management
●    Ad campaigns
●    PR

If you’ve got different people running each of the above types of projects, they can stay organized by using the project management feature to assign tasks, set deadlines, and view emails that relate to a project.

Another example is to tag client files by geography so salespeople who handle each region can see, at a glance, all contacs they’re responsible for.

Customizing for the Individual User
Even within your company, each employee probably uses CRM slightly differently.  You’ve got your Sales Manager who inputs every task into the system so they get a reminder when something’s due. You’ve got your Director of Marketing who uses it to assign projects and tasks to her staff.  As the CEO or owner, you like to have the big picture of what opportunities are in the pipeline and who’s working on closing deals. We give you a view of everything that’s happening in your business.

Insightly lets you do all of this.  No two users have to use the platform in the same way, and they can modify it to help them focus on what’s important at any given moment.

Software should be a tool you use to work smarter, not harder.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Insightly scheduled downtime.

Insightly will be performing scheduled network maintenance and upgrades to our database system this Saturday night and early Sunday morning for four hours, during which time Insightly will be offline. We will begin at 7:00PM PST and be finished by 11:00PM PST, and you can see the exact time in your timezone by clicking here.

Monday, 27 January 2014

10 Things You Didn’t Know Your CRM Could Do (For Your Business)

Typically, Software as a Service (SAAS) vendors focus on streamlining only one business process. What if you could integrate diverse programs so they all worked together, for invoicing, email alerts, project management, customer records, and more? Ten years ago, you'd have had to hire a team of programmers and build epic architecture to achieve such a feat. Today, thanks to the collaborative direction taken by SAAS developers, you can pick the programs you need and integrate easily with your online Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Scripts available on websites like Torpio and Zapier make it really easy for small businesses to connect all kinds of SAAS applications to a central CRM. You'll be able to automate tedious daily tasks to free your management staff for the important stuff.

Are you using your small business CRM to full advantage? You already know how to manage your contacts. Let's see what else you can do.

1. Project Management. Your CRM can manage more than just customer data. Track your projects by setting milestones for each deliverable and assign tasks for each milestone. You'll be able to see exactly what's done (and what's not) and keep the project moving along on schedule and on budget.

2. Integrated Email. Send email alerts when a task is complete, set reminders for upcoming deadlines, easily copy in customer correspondence, and keep both customers and team members in the loop.

3. Launch a Drip Campaign. Set automatic followups for marketing campaigns, sale deadline reminders, and related products.

4. Beautify your Newsletters. Turn bland emails into eye-catching, interactive newsletters with MailChimp. Text emails are so 2000! Get your recipients' attention and encourage them to open your future emails by sending colorful, dynamic emails.

5...And Track the Results. When you start a new marketing campaign, MailChimp will deliver the data you need to gauge its success. Easy-to-understand reports include opens, unopened, sharing and other metrics.

6. Improve Customer Service. Connect with Google integrated services including Google Contacts, Gmail, Calendar, and Drive to bring all your contact points together. Why waste time searching for contact information in different programs?

7. Do the Books. Choose a popular program such as Freshbooks or QuickBooks Online to create and send invoices, record payments, and connect the transactions to customer records in your CRM.

8. Integrate Professional Quotes. Nurture your lead pipeline and really impress your potential customers with proposal software from QuoteRoller. Create beautiful proposals in minutes, complete with analytics--so you’ll know right away when that qualified lead opens your document.

9. Make Notes. Keep yourself on track with Evernote. Collect and file everything--all types of notes, whether audio, text, or photos, and much more! Attach and keep track of all those little details within your customer accounts and projects, so your team is always on the same page.

10. Go Mobile. Access the full power of your online CRM from anywhere. Manage projects, tasks, and people on the go. Add tasks and milestones, check project status, access customer data, log calls, and communicate no matter where you happen to be. Your entire business, right in the palm of your hand.

By integrating a full suite of tools with your SMB CRM, you can create a powerful, scalable business system with all the functions you need to run your business today and as you grow. With Insightly’s affordable CRM, you can do all this...and much more.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Keep them Coming: Five Tips for Creating Repeat Customers

Ok. All that time and energy has paid off. Your new marketing campaign is witty, hip, and looks fantastic. More importantly, it’s doing what it’s supposed to. Your hits and activations are way up; your brand just might start trending on Twitter. Congratulations! Now let’s get to work.

User retention is as important, if not more, then getting new visitors. Increasing your retention by 20% has the same impact as a 20% increase in overall traffic.  But significantly, increasing retention can be much less expensive, with ultimately, a much higher ROI. Ready to get started? Here are ways you can get customers to come back again and again.

Valuable Product
Your product must be valuable to your intended customers. Be sure that you are targeting the right markets. Use whatever tools you can to make sure you’re offering your customers what they need. And if they want something different, be prepared to make changes in either your marketing strategy or your product.

Great Customer Service
This should go without saying, yet it bears repeating. 2/3rds of consumers are willing to spend more money with a company they perceive as having excellent customer service. You can prioritize customer service by implementing a well-designed CRM. Moreover, adopting an online CRM will help you become more organized and free up resources, allowing you to focus your attention on your customers.

Sell and Sell Again
You’ve successfully sold yourself to your customers once. To retain those customers, you’ll have to do it again. And again. And again. Use social media, email, the U.S. postal service. You’ll have to exercise some restraint: no one wants to be pestered. So do it gently, do it with humor, but do it.

Create a Content Marketing Plan
Content marketing involves giving away useful content. This content can both draw new customers in, and help to keep them.By offering your customers relevant, interesting content you make them feel valued. And it’s much less expensive then distributing 1,000 branded key chains.

Ask for Feedback
Haven’t heard from someone in awhile? Keep track of your lost souls, and send them an email (it's helpful if your CRM offers mass email capabilities so you can keep track of everything in one place). Ask them why they’ve left, and what it might take to get them back. You can and should ask your current customers for feedback as well. How can we improve our services? Our product? Our relationship? The information you get will be invaluable and it makes customers feel like you care.
In conclusion, these five tips all concern creating relationships around your brand in the service of user retention.

Play hard and play nice, and they will keep coming back. Good luck!  Also, please feel free to share any tips you have for creating repeat customers. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Make Your CRM Work FOR Your Non-Profit

There’s no denying the fact that a CRM makes your non-profit more efficient, but many non-profit owners and managers may be wondering—HOW does that happen? Well, it’s not just luck and, sadly, it’s not magic. Although you may be able to produce some pretty magical results if you choose the right CRM for your non-profit, you’ve got to make sure the CRM you choose works FOR you—and not against you.

It all comes down to the unique features that a CRM provides for strategic non-profit business management.

What’s most important to non-profits? Often, it’s contact management. Without great contact management, you’re surely missing out on tapping donations from generous donors who wish to support your cause. You’re also likely missing out on building relationships—another key to successfully managing a non-profit organization.

Choosing a non-profit-friendly CRM can really help you leverage your contacts for just that—tapping donations and building relationships—and at the end of the day, that’s how you build a non-profit business from the ground up. That’s how you help it grow.

Top Benefits of a Non-Profit CRM
There are innumerable benefits that a CRM can provide for non-profit organizations. The top benefits to focus on when choosing a non-profit CRM are features like:
  • Flexible Calendaring & Events
  • Automatic Address Book
  • Easy-to-Use Notes
  • Custom Filters
  • Tags to Group and Categorize
  • Web to Contact Form (allows you to capture contact details from your website)
  • Integration with Email Marketing Provider (like MailChimp)
  • Notifications & Follow Up System
Fact is, your CRM should go above and beyond those listed benefits. After all, you need to get the most for your money, especially when you’re running a non-profit.

Functionality like being able to link all the different items that relate to a client to get a 360 degree view of a customer or donor at-a-glance can be incredibly helpful. Super-fast search is also something that can save you in a bind (in case the worst happens and you forget a generous donor’s name—whoops!).

If you find yourself in a bind when you’re on the run, you’ll need mobile capabilities. Have you ever tried to look something up on a laptop when you’re stuck in downtown traffic? NOT FUN.

Getting Past Common Non-Profit Conundrums
Non-profit organizations specifically have to be on the ball when it comes to certain orders of business. Understanding your donors is one of the most important, yet difficult feats that any non-profit can encounter. Other issues that make non-profit project management especially difficult are:
  • Disengaged Donors
  • Uninformed Project Managers
  • Poorly Performing Project Managers
  • Missed Milestones
  • Prospects that Don’t Want to Donate
No matter how hard you work to make sure the difficulties mentioned above don’t happen to YOUR non-profit, the reality of the situation is that it’s nearly impossible for one or more of those issues not to pop up.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Guest Post: What are You Looking for in a CRM Solution?

Whether upgrading from tracking customers in email or a spreadsheet, or migrating from another customer relationship management application (CRM), your company has decided they want to try a new CRM.  What do you really need?  What will best serve your organization…your user base?  What have you been using…and what from that process is working and what isn’t working?  If you are migrating from an existing CRM, what didn't work in the past?  These are all the questions you have to cover as you work on business processes and requirements for the new solution and here are some things to consider:

Integration with Other Applications
These days, no application is an island so what other tools in your organization does your CRM need to talk to?  These are critical requirements to consider when thinking about the right online CRM solution for yours or your organizational needs.  What should it integrate with?  Google apps?  Outlook?  Other MS Office tools?  Gmail?  These are all important considerations and things you’ll need to discuss with the subject matter experts (SMEs), end users, account managers, etc. who will actually be using the final implemented solution.

Reporting needs are an important consideration with any implemented CRM solution.  Business processes and users play an important role in determining these reporting needs…at least from an initial – or baseline – reporting capability standpoint.  Consider how tasks and milestones will need to be displayed, what dashboard reports your users will want to see, and the ever-important opportunity reporting features required to track sales -- those are critical to your sales/account managers, end users and company management.

Administrative Activities
In the small business environment, choosing a CRM solution that is both powerful and easy to administer is very important because you may not have a full time IT department and your high end users may end up administering the application.  The chosen solution should probably have a pretty easy learning curve to help ensure the greatest overall adoption and usage rate – things that play big roles in customer satisfaction and, therefore, project success.   Specifically, you may want to consider a solution that has some or all of these administrative options or capabilities: 
  • Easy way to invite new users
  • Quickly create and set up new teams
  • Create user permissions
  • Ability to easily customize the solution for both today's needs and future business needs
  • Ability to setup relationships between contacts, organizations and opportunities
  • Easily view and manage pipelines and sales activities

Finally, how mobile is the workforce?  Does the CRM solution need to be taken on the road on mobile devices?  Where we are in terms of technology and remote teams, most likely the answer is a definite “Yes”.  Depending on the organization’s “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, you’ll want to consider a solution with a broad range of mobile device coverage (vs. price, of course).  Likely coverage should probably include: iPad, Google Nexus, and Amazon Kindle HD, iPhone, and Android phones…at a minimum.

I have personally led CRM implementation efforts during my project management experiences – including one large project involving three separate (but related) businesses that were all part of the same company.  Replacement of their three separate CRM solutions with one common solution was the plan – and all of these considerations that I mentioned above were critical discussion points with the ultimate end users and played key roles in the requirements definition process.  Know what the customer needs…not all solutions can answer the call.  Understand what how your customer will be using the end solution and find the right/best tool to meet those needs vs. the budget required to do so.
About the author:  Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer & IT/PM consultant and author with over 27 years of development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Killer Customer Service: The Key to Growing Your Small Business

In an increasingly noisy marketplace, excellent customer service is the best way to stand out from the crowd. The popularity of social media puts your business in the spotlight, for better or worse. And while every business makes a mistake now and then, responsive customer service means the difference between an epic PR fail and a great relationship with your customers.

Social media kicks word-of-mouth advertising into high gear. Each satisfied (or dissatisfied) customer has reach that grows exponentially as incidents are shared and re-shared. That’s why it’s not just about advertising and serving your customers anymore. Savvy businesses are engaged and responsive, not only to customers but to everyone who expresses interest.

What's the ROI on Excellent Customer Service?
Gaining new customers is expensive and time consuming. Once you have their attention, it's much cheaper and more efficient to earn customer loyalty and build your base than to replace customers who drift away. That alone should place customer retention at the top of your company to-do list.

Reliable, responsive customer service will result in improved customer satisfaction, better market position, higher sales, and it may even reduce your marketing costs. But the most powerful payoff is an army of volunteer brand ambassadors who will talk about your brand and spread personal stories of how well you addressed their wants and needs.

Revving Up Your Customer Service
Developing a company culture with customer satisfaction at the core means every employee from the top floor to the front line understands that the customer comes first. Here are six ways to ensure your company culture is customer-oriented.

1. Set the tone. Your employees look to you for guidance, and your good attitude will foster a good attitude among the staff. Take time to listen to both customers and employees. If you value your employees, they will value their jobs...and your customers.

2. Empower employees. One of the most frustrating issues in customer service is an employee who cannot say yes to customer needs. Give your employees the power and encouragement to say yes, to cut through the red tape and negativity and find a way to help, even if it means going above and beyond.

3. Refine your protocols. Every business has guidelines for handling customers, and some are rarely, if ever, updated. Ask the employees in the trenches, closest to the customers. They'll have ideas to address problems they face every day, and they'll feel like a valuable part of the team when you ask for their input and act on it.

4. Reward outstanding customer service. When customers report excellent customer service, offer a perk. It doesn't have to be big, and it doesn’t have to be money, but it should be definite and come with public recognition. For workers who rack up lots of customer kudos, you might consider offering something substantial, like a promotion, a raise, or an extra week of paid vacation time.

5. Know your customers. Business is all about technology today, and if you aren't using a customer service CRM to build your customer relationships, you're missing out. In the hands of an associate on the phone with a customer, CRM data is an invaluable tool. Use it to track issues, store customer preferences, check previous interactions, and even suggest product promotions based on prior sales. In practice, a CRM allows customer service reps to establish a more personal relationship with each and every customer.

6. Engage with social media. Customer service doesn't end when your customer leaves your store or your website. Businesses that take the time to monitor social media channels for mentions and respond to queries and comments have a better chance of retaining customer loyalty, garnering personal recommendations and attracting positive reviews.

Don’t expect a corporate cultural shift to happen overnight. Even if you manage to educate employees from the ground up, it will take time for a new attitude to filter through to the customers, and from them to your online presence. Unless you get lucky with an extraordinary story that goes viral, forging a reputation for customer service excellence may take a while. The key is consistency. View every encounter with the public as an opportunity to build your brand.

How might improved customer service help your small business?  If you haven't already, check out how Insightly can get all your employees on the same page and improve customer service.